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Opinion: ISIS and Al-Ahsa | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saudi Shiite mourners attend on November 7, 2014, the funeral of eight victims killed earlier this week by masked gunmen in the town of Al-Dalwa in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Seven of the dead were killed when gunmen opened fire at a crowd, as Shiites commemorated Ashura, one of their holiest occasions. AFP PHOTO/STR

The long-awaited statement from the Saudi Interior Ministry on the attack on the village of Dalwah in the country’s Al-Ahsa province has finally been issued, shedding more light on this horrific crime.

Before we go into this, let me just say that this dangerous crime targeting innocent people in Dalwah sought to incite sectarian conflict in Saudi Arabia. However, it actually ended up having the opposite effect. In the aftermath of the incident we saw popular and official alignment under the banner of national solidarity and the protection of civil peace.

Some well-known figures who have made a habit of sectarian incitement tried via social media to muddy the waters and put forward a false picture of what happened, speculating that this was not a political or terrorist crime, but that it contained personal dimensions. These so-called “preachers” and media figures are like the intellectual writers who appeared during the cultural Sahwa (Islamic Awakening) period in the late 1980s, who thought that what they were doing would make things better, but ultimately had the opposite effect.

It was always clear that the terrorist attack on the village of Dalwah in Al-Ahsa had all the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is something that I said openly at the time, when others would preface talk about this crime by saying, “if it turns out to be a terrorist attack in the first place.” This is nonsense; for if it wasn’t ISIS, then who do they think was responsible? The Japanese Red Army? Basque Separatists?

The statement that was issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry was clear, explicit and transparent—as was the rapid response to the attack by the Saudi Interior Ministry and the officials of the Al-Ahsa governorate and the Eastern Province. However, more important than all this was the popular response rejecting this crime and the calls for Saudi national solidarity against terrorism.

The Saudi Interior Ministry confirmed that the security apparatus had conducted a rapid and thorough investigation into the attack and uncovered a “criminal network with ties to the deviant ISIS organization.” Following investigations, the Ministry revealed that the gang of criminals who carried out the attack had received their orders from abroad and that ISIS had specified the timing and target of the attack.

The Saudi Interior Ministry statement also cited the names of the three terrorists who were killed in the subsequent security raids—two Saudi nationals and a Qatari—adding that the head of the cell had received his orders directly from the ISIS leadership.

The statement also confirmed that Saudi Arabia had arrested a total of 77 terror suspects, including a Turkish national, a Syrian national and a Jordanian.

What is most striking about this statement is that it acknowledged that 32 of those arrested had previous terrorism convictions while 15 others were released on bail. This is something that re-opens talk regarding the rate of recidivism among those convicted of terror charges, including those who go through the Munasaha rehabilitation program. In this case, has the time come to review the way we deal with terror convicts?

Ultimately, the clarity and speed with which this case is being dealt with may prevent many of the complications and difficulties that those who initially ordered this terrorist attack envisioned. To foil the secondary aims of attacks such as this, which include the stirring up of social divisions, is something that can only be commended.